Rupica glanced wide eyed across the room she had been inhabiting for the last five years and fixated her gaze on the thirty three cartons that summed up her life so far. They held her prized possessions, her crazy outfits and assorted accessories, her beloved books, fragile love letters, memories, smiles and adventures-all packed  and ready to be shipped to their next ‘home’? She stared at the bare wall, the blank spaces left once the framed photographs were uprooted and packed. The photographs which told the story of her and Manav’s life together- their shopping disasters, culinary experiments, partying with friends, taking walks in the city, holding hands and happily doing mundane chores together, reflecting love and laughter.  It wasn’t a long story either or even a captivating one. But it did make her smile, shaking her head slightly at their hopeless naivety and misguided optimism when they decided to start living in together despite the shocked anger and disapproval of their parents and skepticism of their common friends. Though they were young and in love back then, but they still did not regret their decision and life together. Both regretted not being able to make it work and drifting apart from each other. Rupica’s decision to move out and start things afresh had been more tough to accept for Manav, who wondered what had gone wrong . They gave each other plenty of space, never imposed their will on each other and divided chores and responsibilities equally. Their escalating arguments followed by stormy silences lasting for days clearly indicated that this wasn’t what they wanted. Now, paying half attention to the call he was engaged in, Manav secretly prayed that Rupica leaves quickly without making it more awkward.

Rupica cast one last longing and lingering look around and told the hired labour  to start loading the cartons into the truck. Descending the stairs slowly, she was unsure about what she disliked more- the death of her relationship and dreams of future or this stale taste of failure in her mouth. She felt the familiar waves of frustration and disappointment wash over her. It had almost been six years at her job as a counsellor at a government school, a position that no longer offered her any satisfaction or solace. She remembered her initial zeal and passion to help troubled teens, which slowly rusted in face of apathy of her colleagues, lack of support from her boss and mountains of futile account work that wasn’t even part of her work profile. The employers expected her maintain tedious and unending records of events that have taken place on paper only. Her refusal and pleadings fell on deaf ears. She had tried her best to devote herself to counsel the children from the economically marginalised and improvished sections of society. Her superiors demanded her assistance in distribution of freebies instead of her counselling the students. Sometimes, she felt that she had been able to form a bond with these often ignored and angst-ridden kids. But she could feel her despair growing whenever she came across their growing incidents of aggression and meaningless violence. She felt disillusioned with her work and now her personal life as well.

Mechanically moving and starting the car, she simply kept track of the pick-up truck and followed it, suppressing the loud cacaphony of voices in her mind berating her inadequacies as a counsellor and a partner. The whirlwind thoughts raging inside her mirrored the madness of car horns and rush hour traffic outside. Struggling to follow the moving truck that was much ahead of her, she zipped ahead at traffic lights that horribly changed from green to red in a split second.  She applied breaks and parked at side the moment she heard the whistle of the traffic cop who was now taking purposeful strides towards her car. She closed her eyes, rubbed the middle of her forehead and took deep breaths, wondering if the day could get any worse than this. First break-up, then packing and moving and now this. She visibly tried to compose herself and offer an apology while rolling down the window screen. She could see the determined and no-nonsense look on the young and obviously newly recruited traffic cop. She fumbled to explain her stance to him while he stared at her quizzically. She finally gave up and  ready to accept her challan, she offered her driving license to him. He scrutinised it for a moment, then looked at her face and finally asking, “Are you Rupica Maám?” Taken aback at his polite tone of his voice, she nodded in affirmation. He excitedly went on, “Maám, don’t you recognise me? I am Uday, a former student of yours. You may not remember me as I wasn’t a very good student, often causing trouble and being involved in silly fights. You spent hours trying to get through me.” She finally recognised him and mulled over his undersated opinion of himself. She remembered him as a rabble rouser and a defiant teen who was sharp but not applying himself academically. She took her failure to help him in the hardest way. Now looking at him all poised and official in his uniform, she wondered if she had been a little bit successful in influencing him. In light of her continued silence, Uday gushed on, “Rupica maám, you were the only one who treated me with compassion and believed in me when I had no hope for myself. I would like to thank you for steering me in the right direction.” His words finally lifted the gloom of despondency weighing on her chest and she fully smiled at him and blessed him as he returned her license and wished her a good day.

The day was indeed taking a rosy turn as she soon spotted her truck ahead and started humming to the peppy song being churned out of the car radio. She wondered if her own exacting standards compelled her to undervalue herself. Was she being too harsh on herself? If belligerent Uday could turn his life around, surely there was hope for her as well. She could make a fresh start without the past baggage. She wasn’t sure if she would thrive in building a new home and a new life for herself. But she would definitely like to keep trying till she can. She wondered if the successive green lights that greeted her at next three traffic signals were a stroke of luck or a sign of hope that fate has finally blessed her. She laughed loudly at her own idiocy and zoomed ahead….So it was New Beginning! New Hope!

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About Roohi Lakhotra

Roohi Lakhotra,a teacher by vocation, aspires to be a writer and a life enthusiast. Her vision is influenced by her love for reading, children, nature, animals and other little joys of life. She likes to interact with folks from all walks of life to share her varied opinions on everything under the sun and to pick on their brains to expand her horizons.

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